Scotland's Gender Recognition Reform Bill: Passing of historic equality legislation is far from the end of this debate – Laura Waddell

As we head into 2023, let’s leave transphobia behind. The road to the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill has been long. Almost five hard years. And in that time, cracks in Scotland’s claim to be a progressive nation have yawned wide.

With trans people still facing considerable hatred, the struggle for equality continues (Picture: David Cheskin/PA)
With trans people still facing considerable hatred, the struggle for equality continues (Picture: David Cheskin/PA)
With trans people still facing considerable hatred, the struggle for equality continues (Picture: David Cheskin/PA)

On Wednesday of last week, when the Scottish Parliament began their debate on GRA reform, it was winter solstice. The shortest day, as it ticked over into the next, became the longest night of the year. And when on Thursday afternoon our parliamentarians finally voted by a comfortable margin in favour of reform, trans people and their supporters across Scotland breathed a sigh of relief. Not only would the days get longer from here on out, but a watermark piece of equality legislation would finally pass.

It is a win for Scottish LGBT rights, and it should be celebrated. But while the change makes life administratively easier for trans people by reducing the barriers to acquiring a gender recognition certificate, it doesn’t solve everything – far from it. Lengthy waiting lists for healthcare remain a significant concern. Media scaremongering and online vitriol continues to take its toll.

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Individuals and organisations advocating for trans inclusion and acceptance have, during this long, vitriolic, drawn-out process, been threatened, harassed and intimidated. Women’s shelters, rape hotlines and LGBT charities, alongside libraries, bookshops and writers’ groups, have been bombarded by online hate campaigns. I have long believed transphobes are useful idiots for the right, who are canny at using wedge issues as Trojan horses to push retrogressive social views in general.

Some far-reaching, well-funded conservative groups in the United States overtly link their anti-abortion and anti-trans lobbying, others, I believe, hide it. Not only does fearmongering have its political uses, but misogyny and trans exclusion go hand in hand, in that they both minimise the responsibility of men in the global problem of male violence against women.

I point readers towards a shocking report by Adam Ramsey on OpenDemocracy entitled "How anti-trans activists forced Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre into lockdown” which profiles the centre’s director, Mridul Wadhwa. Ramsey reports “ERCC has shown openDemocracy 55 pages of emails… with senders’ details redacted. Almost all misgender Wadhwa and many accuse her baselessly of predatory behaviour. Some are racist. The letters include numerous threats of vigilante violence. One seems to call for a genocide of trans women. Another chillingly presents the board with a choice of sacking Wadhwa, or seeing transphobes ‘take matters into their own hands’.”

While this campaign of intimidation has been happening in Scotland, media coverage of the wave of hatred some LGBT people fear amounts to stochastic terrorism has, for the most part, been woeful, more interested in fanning the flames of culture war with celebrity clickbait.

During the debate, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “As a woman, I know what it’s like to live with the fear at times of potential violence from men… I’m a feminist and I will do everything that I can to protect women’s rights for as long as live, but I also think it’s an important part of my responsibility to make life a little bit easier for stigmatised minorities in our country, to make their lives a bit better and remove some of the trauma they live with on a day-to-day basis and I think it is important to do that for the tiny minority of trans people in our society and I will never apologise for trying to spread equality, not reduce it, in our country.”

This Scottish woman concurs and feels reassured to see our parliament finally find a backbone. More need to stand up to minority-bashing, resisting those who would cleave LGBT and feminists apart.



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